Online star enlists in air force, vows to be back

In Korea, mandatory military service applies to all able-bodied men, even cyber royalty. Fans of “Emperor” Lim Yo-hwan fell into a slump after the StarCraft player marched into the air force education headquarters in Jinju two days ago. He will serve 27 months as a soldier with special computer skills.
The fans of the 27-year old gamer, whose fame in Korea is on a par with that of major pop stars, flocked to Lim’s last game last Tuesday night, from which he emerged victorious after a one-on-one battle in Super Fight, a game hosted by CJ Media.
Lim’s absence from the gaming scene raises numerous questions for the professional e-gaming industry here. Most e-game events are StarCraft tournaments, and Lim was the shining star. Although Lim’s performance has been slipping in recent years, and he has often been beaten by younger players, his huge income was an inspiration to prospective game players as well as business people. His success showed that the e-gaming industry was more than just fun, but also had potential for being recognized as an official sport, which could rake in big bucks.
For the past eight years, faithful fans of Lim ― who love to analyze his battle strategies ― filled stadiums, beaches, and exhibition halls where game competitions were held. It was his war strategies that first made him famous, as Lim was certainly not the first professional StarCraft player. Before him, however, most gamers focused on creating the most fighting units in the shortest time. Lim, however, was noted for using a limited number of forces, but placing them in strategic positions, and maneuvering each unit in a fine, detailed manner. Now that Lim is absent, the industry is wondering whether the StarCraft craze will continue. Lim may or may not be able to participate in future gaming competitions ― the air force has not yet decided ― but many people believe things will not be the same. Also, with so many new online games on the rise, there is a question of whether Lim’s departure will act as the turning point from which StarCraft will recede to make way for other games. Companies sponsoring professional gaming teams are looking over their teams and trying to pick out a “new” star player.
Lim, however, says he will be back. “I have to prove that professional gamers can ‘make it’ in their 30s too,” he said.

by Wohn Dong-hee

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